16 Things to do in Japan

  • Ride the Shinkansen. This ultramodern and fast eel-like train will take you almost anywhere in Japan, with stewardesses onboard like in airplanes (try the extra sweet iced coffee!). Booking a ticket can be tricky, as sales offices’ employees won’t necessarily speak (understandable) english and the vending machines won’t clearly inform you need both a fare ticket and a seat reservation (on separate coupons) to board the train… If you travel coach, be aware of the 2-3 seat configuration. Also note that rail passes are not accepted on the fastest trains (mainly known as Nozomi trains).
Shinkansen
Shinkansen
  • Chase Mount Fuji. Easy? Nope. The (very) shy mountain is often surrounded by thick clouds and weather changes a lot around there… Even on a day with clear blue skies there is no guarantee of seeing it. So check weather forecasts until the last minute. The easiest way to see it is from the Shinkansen train (between Tokyo and Kyoto for example). If you are travelling westbound, seat on the right side of the train (and on the left side if you are heading east). The moment may only last a few seconds before the clouds cover it again, but it really is worth a try.
Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen
Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen

  • Visit the old Kyoto. With beautiful temples, serene gardens and traditional houses, Kyoto surely is a mind-blowing place. The city’s new side is totally bland though, so stick to the old side, where time is suspended. Don’t miss the Arashiyama bamboo grove.
Ryoan-ji zen garden
Ryoan-ji zen garden in Kyoto
  • Visit the country during sakura season to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms.
Sakura flowers
Sakura flowers
  • Order food from a vending machine, without readable tags or pictures…
Japanese food vending machine
Japanese food vending machine
  • …or venture to a small restaurant in Tokyo’s Ebisu district where staff doesn’t speak a single word of English and the menus are in Japanese only.
Surprise meal in Ebisu
Surprise meal in Ebisu
  • Still hungry? Grab some food in a small market or buy a bento box in any neighborhood grocery store. Good, nicely presented, cheap and healthy.
Food market in Tokyo
Food market in Tokyo

 

Bento lunch box
Bento lunch box
  • Experience the always-crowded Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, world’s biggest road crossing with crosswalks in 5 different directions (that makes 10 both ways). During night time it’s even more impressive.
Shibuya crossing by night
Shibuya crossing by night
  • Ride a cab. White gloves, automatic door (only on the left side), lace-covered seats. Make sure to bring a map with names of places in Japanese characters also to indicate your destination to the driver.
Japanese taxi
Japanese taxi
  • Enter a pachinko game room and feel the unexplainable atmosphere of complete cacophony…
Pachinko game room
Noisy Pachinko game room
  • Go bonsai shopping. You won’t be able to pack them in your suitcase (even a tiny little one) but…they are so gorgeous!
Bonsai shopping
Bonsai shopping
  • Visit world’s biggest fish market (wholesale) in Tokyo. Go early (very early if you want to see the auctions) and remember it’s not a place intended for tourists, so respect the busy people at work.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market
  • Drink sake (responsibly).
Sake
Sake
  • Visit a traditional teahouse. The one in Hamarikyu Gardens (Tokyo) is quite impressive, trapped between the skyscrapers.
Teahouse at Hamarikyu Gardens
Teahouse at Hamarikyu Gardens
  • Wander the small residential streets of old Yanaka district in Tokyo, off the beaten track.
Yanaka dictrict in Tokyo
Yanaka district in Tokyo
  • Take the slow “Romance Car” panorama train from Tokyo to Hakone, a fascinating journey from the megalopolis’ fast-paced suburbs to the countryside’s peaceful landscapes. Spend your last night in Japan in a traditional ryokan.
The Romance Car train
The Romance Car train

 

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